Campgrounds closed to tents after bear of a problem arises | AspenTimes.com

Campgrounds closed to tents after bear of a problem arises

Four campgrounds around Ruedi Reservoir have been closed to tents and pop-up campers due to a bear of a problem.

The U.S. Forest Service escorted people with anything but hard-shell campers out of the Little Mattie, Mollie B, Little Maud and Ruedi Marina campgrounds Saturday after a bear persistently ransacked the area in search of food, according to Sopris District Ranger Bill Westbrook.

“It seems like it’s just a single bear,” he said.

The bruin has visited the campgrounds multiple times in the last week – rummaging through two tents for food, finding a cooler in a boat and even breaking into a camper and helping itself to the contents of the refrigerator. No one was injured in any of the incidents, Westbrook said.

An officer with the Colorado Division of Wildlife stayed at the site Friday night and fired rubber bullets at the bear when it made its nightly rounds. But the sting of hunger proved stronger than the sting of bullets, and the bear revisited Saturday.

The Forest Service and One Thousand Trails, the concessionaire that manages most campgrounds in the White River National Forest, thought it best to remove people from potential harm when the bear kept returning. Tents and pop-up campers don’t provide enough protection from a bear seeking food.

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“They can rip right through there,” said Steve Sherwood, deputy supervisor for the White River National Forest.

The four campgrounds are located about a half-mile past the Ruedi Reservoir dam. They are popular particularly with campers trying to get close to the water in this dry, hot summer.

The same four campgrounds were completely closed two years ago due to repeated bear visits. The campgrounds were supplied with bear-proof containers but even those didn’t deter the hungry bruin. Westbrook said the bear tipped over a heavy Dumpster and damaged the lid, allowing it to get at the garbage.

No human conflicts with bears have been reported in other campgrounds up the Fryingpan Valley this year, Westbrook said. Nevertheless, campers throughout the area should make sure they keep sites clear of food scraps and make sure food is stored inside locked vehicles, whenever possible, or in bear bags.

Forest Service officials want to get the campgrounds reopened as quickly as possible for the economic benefit of the concessionaire. However, safety won’t be compromised, said Westbrook.

Agency officials are discussing options with wildlife officers. They may try pepper-spray traps or they may try trapping and relocating the bear.

What they are trying to avoid, said Westbrook, is a solution that ends in injury to campers or the bear.

People with reservations at the affected campgrounds can call a toll-free number for cancellations and refunds, according to Forest Service officials. The number is 1-888-448-1474.

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